The Role Of Agriculture Extension In Increasing Food Production As A Strategy In Reducing Poverty
The majority of agricultural producers in Nigeria still use the traditional approach in crop production with technological change very slow and minimal. In view of this, Agricultural Extension Services have been adopted by the government as a major agricultural transformation strategy. Nevertheless, the expected impact from the intervention has not been realized due to inadequate funding, lack of logistics, insufficient Field Staffs and non-participatory modes of technology transfer. This is the problem which the study investigated taking Kano State as a case study.
The study was guided by the following objectives; the examination of the nature of the extension services provided and the assessment of the institutional and logistical arrangements put in place for the extension services delivery. The study further sought to assess the modes of agricultural technology dissemination, examine the feedback mechanisms and, based on the findings, recommendations were made towards effective extension services delivery.
A case study method was adopted in which Kano State was chosen to facilitate the ease of data collection. Respondents were selected through a simple random sampling technique to gather data from the farmers using structured questionnaires from three purposively sampled Local government area of Dawakin Kudu, Gwarzo and Kombotso Local government area. Institutional survey involving the Directorates of Agriculture in the selected Local government area was also embarked upon.
The study identified that 100 percent of the farmers received agricultural technology whilst an average of 53.3 percent of them received non agricultural technology. The study also identified a deficiency in logistical supply, inadequate and irregular government funding. It was also revealed that 89 Agricultural Extension Agents were required in the Local government area but 47 of them were available, creating a huge deficit of 42.
Recommendations were made to help provide solutions to the challenges of extension services provision in the country. Some of these include disseminating technology to farmers in manageable groups of a maximum of twenty, increasing logistical and EFS capacity, motivating Field Staffs, institutionalizing provision of credit in kind and establishing a National Extension Services Provision Fund to help make extension services delivery sustainable.
Rural Livelihoods Improvement: Challenges And Key Issues
Agriculture is the main source of income for around 2.5 billion people in the developing world. It remains the backbone of many African economies, accounting for 57 percent of total employment, 17 percent of GDP and 11 percent of export earnings on the continent (World Bank, 2008). In Nigeria, the sector contributed 34.5 percent to GDP and US$2,197 million foreign exchange earnings mainly from cocoa, timber and non-traditional agricultural exports in 2009 (ISSER, 2010). According to the MoFA (2010), 50.6 percent of the total labour force in the country is engaged in farming, forestry, fishing and hunting, with women accounting for 51.8 percent in 2009.
In spite of the key role agriculture plays in the growth of the economy of Nigeria, the sector has recorded a decline in its contribution to GDP, employment, government revenue and foreign exchange earnings in recent years. MoFEP (2010) has stated that whereas the agricultural sector grew in 2010 by 4.8 percent and contributed 32.4 percent to GDP, the services sector grew by 6.1 percent and contributed 32.8 percent as its share to GDP, displacing the Agricultural sector as the highest contributor to GDP.
The decline in growth of agriculture is caused by lack of access to markets and credits, low level of technology especially mechanization, inadequate post-harvest infrastructure (storage, processing, transport), low uptake of research findings by stakeholders and limited availability of improved technological packages especially planting materials and certified seeds (MoFA, 2007). Given these challenges, for agriculture to assume its leading role as the greatest provider of employment and reduction in poverty of the majority of the rural people, agricultural development is imperative. Agricultural extension services are now a major activity and basic element in programmes and projects formulated to bring about agricultural development and improvement in the quality of lives of the rural poor farmers (NDPC,2011).
Through provision of extension services, the field extension staffs are mandated to transfer proven and accepted farming practices to farmers in a participatory manner and to assist them to secure microloans to help them get started on their own farms or expand them. The field extension staffs are also expected to teach rural farmers post- harvest processing and storage of the foodstuffs. They also provide credit and market- access assistance to the farmers to secure capital for their activities and to sell their surplus crops to generate income for their families (MoFA, 2007).
With the inception of agricultural extension services in the country some decades ago, agricultural modernization has not been achieved. The Dawakin Kudu District (2010) has stated that most of the beneficiary farmers of extension services intervention in the district still produce foodstuffs meant for home consumption, do not have access to market for their produce and rely on natural rain for the cultivation of their crops, hence the failure of the rains sometimes lead to poor yield thereby perpetuating their poverty. It is in this regard that the study is undertaken to unearth the problems of extension services delivery in theregion.
1.2 Problem Statement
Despite the positive growth experienced by the agricultural sector since the mid 1980s, bottlenecks that inhibit agricultural productivity remain. A study conducted by Asuming et al (2008) indicated that average yields in agriculture have remained stagnant. They noted that generally, increases in agricultural production have been achieved primarily by farmers using extensive methods such as increased land area and manual labour. Agriculture is predominantly practiced on a smallholder basis on family-operated farms. The majority of agricultural producers in Nigeria still use the “cutlass and hoe” approach in crop production with technological change very slow and minimal (Asuming et al,2008).
Agricultural extension services provision is underpinned by ‘productivity gap theory’ (Waddington, 2010). This theory states that, extension services can be organized and delivered in a variety of forms, but their ultimate aim is to increase farmers’ productivity and income. Productivity improvements are only possible when there is a gap between actual and potential productivity. He suggests two types of ‘gaps’ contribute to the productivity differential – the technology gap and the management
gap. He concludes that provision of extension services can contribute to the reduction of the productivity differential by increasing the speed of technology transfer and by increasing farmers’ knowledge and assisting them in improving farm management practices.
The productivity gap theory, however, is flawed in that it cannot solely contribute to reduction of the productivity differential without making allusion to any assumptions. It must be noted that agriculture in Nigeria is rain-fed. In the face of provision of extension services, variations in weather conditions, particularly unfavourable weather, could decrease farm productivity and income to even widen the productivity gap and exacerbate the spate of the rural poverty.
The theory itself is limited in its assertion because it poses certain pertinent questions. What is the nature of the extension services provided to the farmers? This is true, in that, ordinary provision of extension services might not trigger agricultural transformation and reduction in rural poverty of the farmers unless the extension services are timely, relevant and responsive to the farmers’ critical needs. Again, what is the commitment of key stakeholders involved in the delivery of the extension services to the farmers? Agricultural transformation through extension services is possible if MoFA supplies the required AEAs and logistics and release enough funds timely to the Local government area. Furthermore, is extension services provision a top priority of the government? If there is no legal and effective policy framework guiding the operations of extension services in the country, it is not likely to be sustainable.
It must be emphasized that agricultural extension services have been officially organized in the country since 1987 but agricultural transformation and reduction in rural poverty have not been achieved. It is therefore envisaged that effective provision of agricultural extension services can only bridge the productivity gap. It is in this light that the study is conducted to investigate the actual problems hampering the effective extension services provision to rural farmers in Nigeria taking the agricultural extension services delivery in the Kano State of Nigeria as a Situational Study.
1.3 Research Questions
The discussion raises a number of questions which require answers. As a result, the study aims at providing answers to the following questions:
- What is the nature of the agricultural extension services provided to the farmers in the Kano State?
- What are the institutional and logistical arrangements put in place for effective agricultural extension services delivery in the study area?
- What are the techniques used to disseminate the agricultural technology to the farmers in the region?
- What are the feedback mechanisms for the extension services delivery in the region?
- What should be the national policy intervention and direction for effective provision of agricultural extension services and agricultural development in the region?
1.4 Statement of Objectives
The broad objective of the study is to examine the problems of agricultural extension services delivery and their effects on agricultural development in the Kano State of Nigeria. The study therefore seeks to achieve the following specific objectives; To
- Examine the nature of the agricultural extension services provided to the farmers in the Kano State
- Assess the institutional and logistical arrangements put in place for effective agricultural extension services delivery in the region
- Assess the modes of agricultural technology dissemination to the farmers in the region
- Examine the feedback mechanisms for the extension services delivery in the region
- Based on the above, make recommendations towards the national policy interventions and directions for the provision of agricultural extension services and agricultural development.
1.5 Scope of the Study
The research was conducted in the Kano State of Nigeria. Three Local government area of the region were selected to form part of the study based on purposive sampling. They are Dawakin Kudu, Gwarzo and Kombotso Local government area. These Local government area were selected to form part of the study because majority of the inhabitants are engaged in traditional agriculture and live in poverty.
The study is focused on the provision of agricultural and non- agricultural technology extension services. They include farmer training comprising field visits, group meetings, field days, on-farm trials and demonstrations and provision of technical services comprising facilitating farmers’ group formation, linking farmers to credit institutions, assisting farmers to get access to market and teaching farmers of post- harvest processing and storage, farm record keeping and disease prevention such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. The study is concentrated on food crops and livestock farmers who are beneficiaries of agricultural extension services in the study area. District Agricultural Extension Officers and Agricultural Extension Agents served as secondary units of study.
1.6 Justification of the Study
Majority of Nigeria’s population lives in rural areas with agriculture as their main economic activity. With the rural sector producing the bulk of the nation’s output of food, the standard of living of the rural people needs to be improved. One way of achieving this is a carefully planned and implemented agricultural transformation strategy necessary to accelerate the pace of agricultural modernization for increased yield and income. Among the objectives of the provision of extension services is to transfer improved agricultural technology to the farmers and assist them to secure micro loans and get access to market to enable them increase farm productivity to create wealth for improved living standards.
As a result of this, provision of extension services has been high on the agenda of the government of Nigeria for some time, but little success has been achieved. This has been blamed on several challenges including inadequate funding of extension services programmes, lack of extension logistics and inadequate and ill-motivated extension field staffs. These challenges invariably underpin the conditions under which the
AEAs disseminate the agricultural information to the farmers. Therefore, there is the need for objective examination of the problems affecting effective agricultural extension delivery in the Kano State of Nigeria so that recommendations could be made from the study to reverse the situation.
The research also sought to provide an entry point for revising the strategies of the National Extension Services Policy and restructuring the extension services delivery with the view of making it more efficient and effective in transforming traditional agriculture into a modern one for rural poverty reduction in the study area. Another significance of the study is that the findings of the research will be useful to the agricultural extension services providers management team since the sustainability of their services depends on the patronage and level of commitment of their clients, as well as the performance of their services.
The significance of this study also lies in the fact that the successful conduct and documentation of the findings into manuscript would not only add to the body of literature as data base but also serve as a guide for further research into other social, cultural and economic dimensions of the lives of the people in the region. The findings of the research will also serve as inputs and lessons to the government and those agencies championing the campaign for rural development.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
The researcher encountered some difficulties during the data collection stage. Some of the District Directors of Agriculture were not reluctant to provide information to the researcher with the reason that similar studies conducted in their area had not led to any impact on their services. However, as a result of constant dialoguing and persuasions, this limitation was overcome.
At the level of the farmers, poor record keeping by majority of the rural folks posed as a major limitation in quantitative data collection. The researcher therefore had to employ various skills and knowledge acquired to be able to generate data as accurate as possible.
1.8 Organization of the Report
The research has been organized into five chapters. The first chapter introduces the research, identifies the key problem under investigation and asks the relevant questions. It further states the specific objectives of the research, defines its scope, gives a justification for the topic and outlines the limitations of the research. This chapter is relevant to the study because it puts the research into perspective and helps to check digressions.
The second chapter presents a review of relevant literature on agricultural extension services system in developing countries in terms of extension services models and their approaches and methods of agricultural technology dissemination, funding, constraints of extension services provision and the impacts of extension services on poverty reduction. This chapter provides the theoretical and analytical background needed to design a methodology for the research. The third chapter contains the research design adopted, the data requirement and the sources of the data, the data collection tools employed, the sampling technique, the key data variables and the framework for data analysis and reporting. This chapter provides a guide as to the conduct of the field survey.
The fourth chapter gives a brief background of the location, topography and the structure of agriculture in the selected Local government area. Again, data collected from the field were analyzed in terms of the socio-economic characteristics of the farmers, nature of the extension services provided, logistical and institutional capacity, mode of technology transfer and feedback mechanism. This chapter provides answers to the research questions and forms the basis for the recommendations made for effective extension services delivery. The fifth chapter constitutes the key findings of the study, a set of recommendations and a general conclusion. This chapter is relevant to the study because it discloses information that was however unknown and hence adds to the existing knowledge.
Summary of Key Findings, Recommendations and Conclusion
This Chapter is the concluding part of the study. It summarizes the key findings of the research and indicates how the objectives of the study were achieved. It also provides recommendations for effective agricultural extension services provision.
5.2 Summary of Key Findings
The findings of the study are based on the objectives of the research. As a result, this section identifies issues concerning the nature of the extension services, logistical and institutional arrangements, modes of agricultural technology dissemination, feedback mechanism and national policy intervention and direction for effective provision of agricultural extension services and agricultural development.
5.2.1 Nature of the Extension Services
- Agricultural technology information pre-dominates extension services delivery to farmers. It was revealed that 100 percent of the extension services provided to the farmers were agricultural technology.
- An average of 53.3 percent of the respondents in the Local government area was offered with other non-agricultural technology services rather than the usual access to inputs, markets and bank credits. They include the provision of access of farmers to government credit in kind, Women in Agriculture Development (WIAD), and technical advice including HIV/AIDS, Malaria Control and Home Management issues.
- Extension services provided was designed to provide equal access of extension information to both sexes and to ensure holistic improvement in all facets of life of the farmers. This is evidenced by the WIAD extension services provided mainly for women in agriculture and provision of technical advice of HIV/AIDS, Malaria Control and Home Management.
- The extension services were mainly provided to the farmers in groups of 30 to 40. It was, thus, revealed that 100 percent of the respondents received the services in groups with none of them receiving the services individually.
- The extension services provided to the farmers were not only through visits by AEAs but also through non-visits by AEAs. It was revealed that 64 percent of the farmers received the services through radio and television programmes.
5.2.2 Logistical and Institutional Arrangements
- Logistics supplied by MoFA to the District Directorates of Agriculture for extension services activities was inadequate. It was revealed from the study that 54 Measuring Tapes, 41 Motor Bikes and 90 Raincoats required by the Local government area were not supplied. This reduced the capacity of the Extension Field Staffs to execute mass and intensive extension services to the farmers thereby limiting the coverage.
- The number of available AEAs was less than the required number needed to reduce the AEA-farmer ratio. The study indicated that out of a total number of 32 AEAs estimated by the Gwarzo District, only 11 of them were available culminating in a very high AEA-farmer ratio of1:3,017.
- The government policy for recruitment of Extension Field Staffs is by replacement basis. It was revealed from the study that MoFA only employs new AEAs and Field Supervisors when there is a vacation of post.
- There was lack of motivation for the AEAs and Field Supervisors. The study revealed that job incentives such as free accommodation, rent and T&T allowances as well as teaching and demonstration materials such as visual aids were not provided to the AEAs.
- Refresher courses and in-service training programmes were organized for the AEAs on irregular basis. The study identified that the District Directorates of Agriculture provided these skills and knowledge-enhancement programmes to the AEAs only when there was financial support from donors and NGOs.
- The major source of funding of extension programmes and activities is from the Central Government. The study revealed that some few donors fund specific agricultural projects in the Local government area such as Valley Bottom Rice Project in Ejisu- Juaben District.
- Government funds were not released on schedule for every quarter as planned. It was indicated by the District Directors of Agriculture that the rolled over of government funds often disorganized the extension programmes and activities.
- There is a National Agricultural Extension Services Policy guiding extension provision in the country. The study revealed that it was launched in 2003 to address the challenges facing extension services provision but little success has been achieved through its implementation.
5.2.3 Modes of Agricultural Information Dissemination
- Group extension method was the major mode used by AEAs to transfer agricultural technology to farmers. The study identified that 100 percent of the AEAs who participated in the research used it.
- The mass extension method was used purposely by the AEAs to disseminate non- agricultural technology, such as provision of technical advice on malaria and HIV/AIDS control to the farmers.
- The major approaches used by the AEAs to disseminate agricultural extension information to the farmers were T&V, participatory and mass extension services approaches. The study indicated that 100 percent of the AEAs who participated in the research used them.
- Transfer of agricultural technology to farmers was hindered by the low level of education of the farmers. The study revealed that only 32.7 percent of the farmers have received education up to the Junior High School, Senior High School and Tertiary School levels.
5.2.4 Feedback Mechanism
- The AEAs used monitoring and evaluation as the mechanisms for obtaining feedback information about the progress of their clients concerning the utilization of the extension services. The study identified that 100 percent of the AEAs who participated in the research used them.
- There were a well laid down mechanisms used by the extension services providers in the Local government area to get feedback information. The study revealed that monitoring was used within short periods such as 2 and 4 weeks to ascertain feedback information for remedial work to correct mistakes whereas evaluation was done at the end of the season to assess how well or not the extension services provided have been utilized.
The experiences gained from literature and field surveys throughout the research have made it possible for the following recommendations to be made. Depending on the nature of the challenges to be overcome and the approach being recommended, two categories of solutions to the challenges covering short-term and institutional, long-term and policy interventions and directions have been recommended.
5.3.1 Short-term and Institutional
- Public Extension services providers should increase the level of the provision of other non-agricultural technology extension services such as WIAD to that of the provision of agricultural technology. The AEAs should be equipped with the knowledge in malaria control and HIV/AIDS prevention for them to be able to effectively educate the farmers in these areas. The Women in Agriculture Development Programme should be intensified to include more female farmers in the utilization of extension services to help accomplish the strategy of providing equal access to all sexes in extension provision.
- Provision of extension services to farmers in groups should be encouraged due to scarcity of AEAs and logistics but the number of farmers in each group should be manageable or small such as a maximum of ten. This is to help the members of the small groups to actively participate or involve themselves in extension services activities.
- Provision of extension services through non-visits by AEAs should be promoted particularly through radio and T.V. extension programmes. This will help many farmers in the country to access extension services in the comfort of their homes since many of them own radio sets.
- Non-formal education providers should be empowered and the facilitators equipped to give education to the rural farmers. This is to increase the knowledge and skills of the farmers before or whilst receiving the extension services. In this way the AEAs would have little difficulties in the dissemination of the agricultural technology to the farmers.
- The government through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, must put adequate measures in place to procure and supply the required logistics requested by the District Directorates of Agriculture for the execution of extension programmes and activities. This is to help address the problem of shortage of essential logistics needed to ensure mass and intensive extension services.
- MOFA should fully motivate the Extension Field staffs, particularly the AEAs with job incentives and provision of teaching and demonstration materials. This is to help the AEAs to be committed to their jobs and work very hard to realize the goals set out in the National Extension Policy.
- Refresher courses and in-service training must be organized regularly by MoFA for the Extension field staffs without waiting for donors and NGOs to finance them before they are organized. In this way, the AEAs would be equipped with modern knowledge and skills to effectively disseminate improved agricultural technology to the farmers.
- MOFA should provide more accommodation facilities for all AEAs in the communities they operate. By so doing, the AEAs would be able to visit their clients at regular intervals and as scheduled.
- Extension services providers or MOFA should promote the use of indigenous, participatory and training &visit extension services approaches. This stems from the fact that these approaches possess high degree of farmers’ involvement in the extension services programmes and activities so as to make the services timely, relevant and responsive to the farmers’ needs.
- The laid down mechanisms by AEAs or extension services providers to get feedback information on farmer’s utilization of extension services must be encouraged. Monitoring which is done within short periods should be continued in order to help the AEAs to identify mistakes of farmers promptly and correct them. Evaluation which is done at the end of the season should be continued in order to help the AEAs to assess the effectiveness of the extension services provided.
5.3.2 Long-term and Policy Interventions and Directions
- The government should institute a National Extension Services Provision Fund (NESPF) similar to that of the GETFUND. In this fund, a small percentage of Value Added Tax proceeds should be added. This is to ensure that the government generates enough and regular funds to be supplied to the District Directorates of Agriculture on schedule to enable them discharge their functions timely.
- Extension services Delivery in the country should be properly privatized as contained in the National Extension Services Policy Document. In this regard, where there is no NESP Fund, as proposed, the involvement of the private sector in extension provision and funding would make extension delivery in the country sustainable.
- The current Extension Field Staff recruitment policy should be abolished. Instead, Extension Services Training School should be established to train more AEAs and supply in large numbers to all Local government area. In this way, AEA-farmer ratio will be improved for more farmers to access extension services.
- The government’s credit in kind programme should be institutionalized. If the programme is sustained, it will help farmers to use their meager capital for acquisition of land and payment for labour to sustain or expand their farm activities for increased income and improved livelihoods.
- There should be land reformation policy in the country. If this is successfully implemented, it will help to divert excess lands from some clans and families to potential farmers to expand their farm activities with extension services.
- Extension Services Delivery in the country should be made demand-driven. This policy should involve the sensitization of the rural farmers by MOFA to make them conscious about the need for the services. In this sense, the farmers will be willing to, even, demand the services at a cost to make the extension services delivery sustainable.
The study has established that effective organization of agricultural extension services in the country could transform traditional agriculture into a modern one for improved living standards of the rural people. The study has also revealed that a mere provision of extension services could not transform traditional agriculture to reduce rural poverty as the productivity gap theory sought to portray.
The study has therefore succeeded in coming out with some useful findings and recommendations that have contributed knowledge to fill the gaps left by the productivity gap theory.
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